Is it about a bicycle?
By Paul Kavanagh.
Vault: An Anti-Novel, David Rose, Salt Publishing 2011
I am faced with an onerous task, how to deconstruct a story that is about the deconstruction of a story. Please don’t deconstruct, if you do, you will only end up constructing. Vault is about many things. A salient thing is the bicycle. The bicycle in Vault is a bicycle and only a bicycle. It is a machine and only a machine. It serves a function. The bicycle is only a tool as is the sniper rifle. A tool is only a tool. The sniper rifle is salient to a point in Vault. The sniper rifle is simply a sniper rifle. The bicycle is not the metaphor, neither is the sniper rifle (you have to read Vault). The bicycle is the metaphor-carrier.
Come on. Where’s the vim? You are writing a review on-line, for an impatient reader, there’s porn a click away, there’s news about the latest fab-celeb a poke away, come on, snap snap, you’re writing for the sophisticated kids of the void, not lecturing to a bunch of geriatrics.
Vault is a short book. But it contains many things. It is not a quick read.
The Recognitions Vs The Great Gatsby
The winner: The Great Gatsby
Gravity’s Rainbow Vs The Heart of Darkness.
The winner: The Heart of Darkness.
Vault deals with a man called McKuen. He is a sniper. A spy. A disgruntled guinea pig. He is real. He is a simulacrum. He is both real and a simulacrum. He is a competitive cyclist. This is important: he is a competitive cyclist. The examining of maps and topography is just the mundane mechanisms of an ardent and passionate cyclist, but David Rose is best when he writes about McKuen and the bicycle and the race. I could have read a thousand pages about grit and sweat and the competition.
Vault deals with storytelling (you have to read Vault) and the mechanisms of storytelling. It deals with the many simulacra that build up a story, brick by brick, lie by lie, fabrication by fabrication.
Vault is as fragmented as Europe before and after the war, Two not One. Vault has to be fragmented. McKuen is fragmented. The book is fragmented. David Rose himself is fragmented. I am fragmented. You are fragmented.
We have the real McKuen and we have the story of McKuen and we have the story teller. David Rose shows us two sides of McKuen. It is a very clever device. We get the writer’s view of McKuen. The writer like all writers is prone to mendacity and elaboration. And we get McKuen’s view of McKuen. And the cherry on the pie is David’s Rose’s two McKuens. And so the question is: which is the real McKuen? Can we trust David Rose? Is he as duplicitous as the nameless writer? Can the real McKuen please stand up!
Vault covers a juncture of disintegration. We are taken on a journey through Europe through the war, Two not One. Vault unravels within the Great Joke. The Great Joke being Europe. Instead of rebuilding after the war, Two not One, the book shows Europe patching up the scabs and wounds with ephemeral plasters, and of course, the scabs and wounds hemorrhage. Europe is shown as a quagmire ready for the mushrooms (also mushroom cloud).
There is no peace for McKuen after the war because the war never ended it simply shifted onto a different stage. It is here McKuen mirrors Europe. We are presented with the official Europe after the war, a time of rebuilding and mercy and repartition, whereas the realty is one of conflict and distrust. A time for the IRA, the Baader-Meinhof Group, Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, Black September, Ejército Popular Revolucionario, Revolutionary Guevarist Army, Εθνική Οργάνωσις Κυπρίων Αγωνιστών, Noxçiyn Respublika Noxçiyçö, and even CND (it all depends which side you are on). McKuen doesn’t simply ride off into the sunset after the war, Two not One, he involves himself and wades through the quagmire (you have to read Vault) it is a story after all.
Vault is not a historical novel. It could have been, but it is not. It is lying out there in the ether waiting for us to catch up. More than a book about a man and war and his enjoyment of cycling, it’s a metaphor. If Rose was not a Rose but a different Rose we would be calling Rose a genius but alas Rose is simply a Rose and so he is a Rose.
First published in 3:AM Magazine: Monday, January 2nd, 2012.